Asuka Period - Age of Art and Buddhism


Learn Japanese with Anime, click to learn more!

In Japan a form of time counting is by periods or eras (元号; gengō or 年号; nengō). One of these was the Asuka Period (飛鳥時代) which took place between the fifth and sixth centuries from 538 to 710 AD. 

This period was marked by art, architecture, Buddhism and the evolution of the Yamato government. Let us now enter a little into the history of Japan to know but in this respect it was important to history.

History and origin is Asuka Period

Asuka is currently a city located in the south of city of Nara. It is still possible to observe some characteristics of that period by means of the architectures still existing in the place.

When talking about the Asuka Period the most common is to associate with the era responsible for arts and Japanese architecture. Even those who proposed this name were art scholars, Sekino Tadasu and Okakura around 1900.

During this period, too, Japan was undergoing a process of name change, yet it did not have that name as we know it today. O name changed from Wa (倭) to Nihon (日本).

Período asuka - era da arte e budismo

Yamato Government in the Asuka Period

Yamato government also known as 'Yamato Period' was a centralized domain of Japan held by the Yamato Court. It was during this government that lasted through the Asuka Period in which Japan underwent major changes mainly related to culture and & nbsp; religiosity. 

Previously Japanese territory was disputed by classes, & nbsp; but the Yamato dynasty managed to unify the nation around the second century. Despite some conflicts this government has managed to maintain relative peace. Then the Japanese began to develop more in relation to culture and architecture, but they were initially based in China.

During the beginning of the period the Soga-no-Umako clan managed to reach the court through marriages. At the end of the seventh century, Empress Suiko took possession and her nephew, Prince Shôtoku, became governor. 

Período asuka - era da arte e budismo

Prince Shôtoku was a Buddhist and followed the Confucian teachings. He ended up expanding the Buddhist religion. For this period it is seen as the construction of large Buddhist temples.

Prince Shôtoku also developed the Constitution of Seventeen Articles (十七条憲法), in which Buddhist and Confucian teachings were emphasized with emphasis on the morals and expected virtues of government officials and their subjects. 

In addition, he went on to adopt the Chinese calendar. But mainly he devoted himself to the spread of Buddhism in Japan also by sending students to China. These changes have significantly helped Japan, especially in its relationship with China.

If you want to know more about this prince and the changes he has managed to make in Japan, he has the film Shotoku Taishi. He is a Japanese film that takes place during the sixth century.

Período asuka - era da arte e budismo

Reform after the death of the prince

Prince Shotôku died at the age of 48 in 622 AD After his death, the Soga clan increased in strength. In 645 Emperor Kotoku (孝徳天皇) established a set of doctrines that had been written, after the prince died known as the Taika Reforms (大化の改新). 

Then, a new system of control was instituted that originated in the Chinese government structure and ended up positively affecting the agrarian reform and strengthening the power of the imperial court.

The end of the Asuka period was marked by the administrative reorganization called the Taiho Code (a renewal of the Ritsuryo System). That initial code was Chinese-inspired, but later went through more adaptation. O Confucianism it was taken as inspiration for this code, so his punishments were lighter.

Período asuka - era da arte e budismo

Taoism and its influence in Japan

In addition to Buddhism, Taoism also became more prevalent in Japan during the Asuka Period. Taoism is more considered a set of teachings and philosophies than a religion. This belief is part of the idea that human beings must live in harmony with nature to be part of it.

Just like Buddhism, Taoism had Chinese influence. In the seventh century the temple was built on Mount Tonomine. Shortly afterwards Taoist teachings were fused with Shinto and Buddhism in which new rituals arose. 

Período asuka - era da arte e budismo

Culture of the Asuka Period 

Beliefs marked this period, so for sure they had many temples destined for it. But in addition to the temples they had paintings and sculptures, some also turned to the Buddhism.

Sculptures were essential for worship, so there are still some used in that era. Many are found in museums, as it is the best way to preserve history.

Período asuka - era da arte e budismo

Each of the pieces shows local influences, but from other places as well, such as China and Asia. Unfortunately, not many paintings from that period have been lost over time. 

And something that always stands out when you go through periods of time are the clothes. It is a way of knowing the time in which he lived, so he also contributed to the culture. During the Taika Reformation (645) a common piece worn by emperors and court-bound men was a kind of hat called Kanmuri.